Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2004 / 29 Teves, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Consumer Reports

Eyebrow-raising mystery; who's punk'd anyway?; don't curb your enthusiasm; more | NEW YORK — What killed Olivia Goldsmith?

The best-selling author of "The First Wives Club" was only 54 when she walked into Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital two weeks ago for a run-of-the-mill "neck lift."

Ever since her shocking death on Jan. 15 — a week after suffering a heart attack on the operating table and slipping into a coma — the mystery has riveted the fashionable ladies who lunch from the Upper East Side to Palm Beach.

"Everyone is wondering who the doctor was," a member of this charmed set told this column Thursday.

These wealthy women of a certain age — for whom facelifts and Botox shots are as routine as a manicure — are now shying away from the scalpel. "I was thinking of having something done, but now I'm not going to," one social doyenne confided. "It makes you worry."

In Goldsmith's case, she was scheduled for a relatively risk-free procedure to remove excess skin under her chin. But something went wrong when she was put under anesthesia.

Now her attorney, Steven Mintz, is trying to find out what. "What I'm doing is what any thoughtful, caring attorney would do," he said. "In due course, we will investigate and we'll take whatever steps we deem appropriate. . . . All these things have a process, and we will follow normal process."

Reps for both Goldsmith's estate and the hospital are keeping the doctor's identity under wraps for now. But Mintz noted that several of his late client's fictional female characters undergo plastic surgery to change their lives or win back lost loves.

But none dies under the knife.

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Everything seemed friendly during Katie Couric's interview with Ashton Kutcher, who appeared on the "Today" show Wednesday to tout his new movie "The Butterfly Effect."

But then, with a minute to go, things suddenly got very icy between the NBC News star and the 25-year-old Kutcher, host of MTV's celebrity practical-joke show, "Punk'd."

The tension started when Couric asked with a smile: "I have to ask you about Demi Moore — how's that going?"

In response, Kutcher stared back at her unhappily.

"See, this is exactly why I wanted to do the interview with Matt," he spat. "You said you weren't going to ask about this!"

Couric's smile faded as Kutcher, waving his arms, continued bitterly, "See that's what I'm talking about." Then he stood up and reached to remove his microphone while walking off the set.

Eyes wide, Couric pleaded: "Wait. Wait. Wait. No, no, no, no, no. I'm sorry."

Kutcher sat back down. "See, that's uncomfortable — being punk'd!"

"Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha," a relieved-looking Couric said. "Ashton, Ashton!"

But it turns out that the viewers were the ones who got punk'd. Couric and Kutcher cooked up the whole scheme beforehand. Couric told me, through a spokeswoman, "I love 'Punk'd.' I've always wanted to punk Matt."

Alas, "Today" co-host Matt Lauer wasn't even watching.


DON'T CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Democratic loyalist Laurie David, wife of HBO star Larry David, has recruited an impressive array of celebs to host a Feb. 4 strategy session in New York on how to effect regime change at the White House. Among the confirmed participants, Mrs. David told me, are Michael Douglas, Michael Moore, Meryl Streep, Harvey Weinstein, Jann Wenner and Viacom exec Tom Freston — and they better show up, she added. "The punishment for people who don't show up is that you're never allowed to complain again about anything this administration is doing." The event at the Ethical Culture Society will feature former Bill Clinton aide Harold Ickes, who is trying to raise $140 million for anti-Bush media.

OUR FINAL TRISTA REHN ITEM?: TV Guide reports that she's apparently experiencing severe publicity withdrawal since the hoopla over "The Bachelorette" died, leaving her to confront her life as a Colorado housewife married to firefighter Ryan Sutter. Sources claim that Rehn, through her reps, is pestering an unidentified network in hopes of getting her lowkey hubby a TV acting gig. "She thinks he'd make a great actor," an insider said. TV Guide quips: "We agree: He's been doing a bang-up job these past few months acting like his better half isn't an attention-crazed prima donna."

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01/21/04: Ridiculous lives of the self-important stars; long arm of the law; all's fair in love and literature
01/16/04: Global warming at a glacial pace; targeting pop culture; Is 'the price of loyalty' too high?
01/14/04: Busting on the "cult buster"; Sarsgaard thinks globally; one angry woman; more
01/08/04: Sitcom star won't be excused from Blake murder trial; fierstein on fire; Drudge & Blumenthal, together again
01/07/04: Bono hits a brick wall; Britney, before the nuttiness; the Arianna primary; more
01/02/04: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio!?; "Bachelor" bruises; Returning to the scene of the crime?
12/31/03: Disaster for the defense; no-war Omar; the shoe must go on; more
12/19/03: Bob Shapiro's free commercial?; Are sophisticated and hip New Yawkers easily duped?; Positive Saddam fallout?; Ratty insult?
12/17/03: Magic Mystery Tour?; Russell Simmons battles ink by the barrel; Would it have killed her to say 'get well soon'?; no Gest room
12/12/03: Karenna defends her dad; now she tells us!; say it ain't so, Mo!; more
12/10/03: Man & wife, interruptus; pepperoni has feelings, too; more
12/05/03: The knives are out; Who's sorry now?; JWR in the news
12/04/03: The war of the gest-minnellis; something borrowed, something cashmere; fashion trendsetter, nailed!
12/03/03: Colombian grace under pressure; Lord of the Screwups; more
12/02/03: Curb your anti-Semitism?; fame fatigue?; bowing to pressure?; more
12/01/03: Dennis the Menace strikes again; first literary feud of the holiday season; Norma Jean & Hef in heaven?; the fog of McNamara; more
11/26/03: Catherine Crier raps Jacko's TV defender, refuses on-air hint of racism; At 50, Tina's in full cry; STAY OUT OF HER WAY!; more
11/25/03: The mogul strikes back?; go ahead, make Harvey's day; more
11/24/03: Georgette's pilfered baubles; prosecutor of pop?; absent but not missed?; Norman Mailer's prescription for education reform; more
11/20/03: Is a movie career in store for Maria Bartiromo?; People for the Unethical Treatment of Humans?; more
11/19/03: Scientologists on Razor's edge?; picking a winner?; source on a hot tin roof?; more
11/18/03: Clay Aiken neuters PETA?; THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!; a mural for Joe
11/17/03: When networks attack!; leaky Fawcett; forget the Paris Hilton video!; more
11/13/03: Publicity hounds; Prophetic priest; Dumb and Dumber
11/12/03: Not so Rosie; do you believe in miracles?; catalogue of sins; My Heart Belongs to Koppel
11/10/03: Gen. clark on the Subway diet; life of the party; MTV's Dumb and Dumber?; the hug issue; but does the $6,000 shower curtain convey?; red faces at Buckingham palace?
11/06/03: Let them eat pita?; verbal jousting; pretenders to the throne?
11/05/03: Will Harvey Weinstein and Gregg Easterbrook now be pals?; crazed Quentin; more
11/04/03: Herding off the hipsters; more
11/03/03: Dean's tell-all on himself?; Lisaraye vs. Mya?; the odd couple; no need to panic; just don't call him "Scooter"!; Rosie scenarios
10/30/03: Autumn of the editor?; Cynthia Nixon's split may be costly; 'Burning' questions
10/29/03: Ah-nold, unauthorized!; a dilemma for Melissa Gilbert? not even Frank Gifford can help him now!; nobody wanted Elizabeth Hurley
10/28/03: It's Cher calling!; Brown Alert
10/27/03: Paparazzi uncensored!; where's Aaron Brown?; postcards from the middle; invasion of the party snatchers?; House flooded when not afire?; suspenders of disbelief?
10/23/03: Ace up Howard Dean's sleeve; Woody's ordeal; Paul Simon's kid makes good; the non-beginning of a beautiful friendship?
10/22/03: Showing the flag; Joe Frazier, smokin'!; see Carville bruised-up — sort of
10/21/03: Morris & Jaci's charm offensive; Hell hath no fury; Wintertime for Hitler
10/20/03: Isn't it rich?; men (and the occasional woman) behaving badly; peacenik John Lennon supporting the U.S. military?; courageous Connie
10/16/03: George Clooney and intolerable Drudgery; Cameron goes native; and you thought the war in Iraq was nasty?; now it can be revealed; star wars?
10/15/03: Kerik into the breach?; holiday pander?; "the Dink" corrects the record; more
10/14/03: Madge gets mad, lips are sealed; the candidates who listen; he who hesitates is Beatty
10/13/03: Clothes, but no cigar; New Yorkers put a Sox in it; mad at Matalin?; more
10/09/03: Gray Davis goes to the movies; Ali Wentworth, working blue; Law & Order?; pot of gold at the end of the rainbow room?
10/08/03: Art-time for Hitler; the actress who hates movies; lying "Liam"
10/07/03: Pond scum of the rich and famous
07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
07/21/03: White House smear?
07/17/03: Yet another intern scandal; it's her party and she can pay if she wants to
07/14/03: On the auction block: JFK'S boxer shorts; love bytes the maestro
07/10/03: A hairy situation at Homeland Security; Van Susteren v. Orth
06/30/03: Rep. Patrick Kennedy: I've never worked a (bleeping) day in my life; Drudge's dressing down; Ken Lay's Kerry connection
06/26/03: Rapping the beat
06/23/03: Another Watergate scandal?; AL GORE TV!
06/19/03: Tony Snow, rocker?; that won't be crow on Mr. Carlson's plate
06/16/03: Missing dog, ransom demand, Hollywood ending
06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate